Scientific Fields of Study: Areas & Definitions

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be exploring various scientific areas of study. We'll explain what each area covers as well as jobs that scientists hold in that area. By the time you're done with this lesson, you'll have a general understanding of topics in science.

What Is Science?

Have you ever wondered why some trees get so big? Why can you only see some stars at a time? How does your body get energy from food, and how do you use that energy to think? All of these questions can be answered by science, or the study of the physical and natural world. Scientists study everything from the way subatomic particles behave up to the movements of planets outside our galaxy. Today, we'll review a few of the main fields of study in science: physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and astronomy.

Physics

How are rockets able to launch? How do cars accelerate? Why are seat belts important? Physicists study the principles that govern all these actions. Physics is the study of matter and energy and includes topics like heat, mechanics, motion, light, and sound waves. Students who study physics can become engineers, working to construct buildings, submarines, rockets, and vehicles. They might also develop safety equipment for cars and planes, studying how crashes affect the motion and impact on individuals.

Physicists design safety technology to protect cars in a crash
crash

Have you ever felt a draft coming in your home in the winter? Physicists also study the movement of heat. By studying how heat moves through different materials, they can design insulation and windows that keep the draft out and keep you warm.

Beyond these large projects, physics takes a place in our daily lives. The computer you're using to read this lesson works because of the physical properties of electromagnetic radiation. Radio waves bounce through the air, allowing for wireless communication. Your speakers and headphones reflect sound waves at the most optimal angle to create the perfect acoustics for music.

Chemistry

What's your favorite flavor Popsicle? Cherry is a popular one, but we all know those bright red treats don't actually contain cherries. So where does the flavor come from? Well, you can thank chemistry for this flavored snack.

Chemistry is the study of the properties of atoms as well as how those atoms interact during chemical reactions. Although you might think of chemists in a lab studying complex reactions, chemistry is all around us. Many companies make a living from designing artificial scents and flavors through chemical reactions, like the artificial cherry flavor in your Popsicle.

Products you use daily, such as soap, hand lotion, makeup, and cleaning products, are all developed through chemistry too. Chemists also work to develop drugs and delivery systems to treat diseases like cancer and diabetes. Nearly everything in your life involves some form of chemistry.

Scientists at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies use chemistry to research clean energy sources
chemistry lab

Biology

Biology is the study of life. All living things, from single cells up to entire ecosystem, fall under this field of study. Starting from the smallest units of life, molecular biologists study cells and the DNA found within them. Molecular biologists may study bacteria or human cells hoping to find a cure for diseases like autism, heart complications, or cancer.

Physiologists study how organs and organ systems work together in the body. These biologists can go on to become doctors, physical therapists, psychiatrists, or research physiologists in a lab for procedures like organ transplants. Biologists who study anatomy can even use their knowledge in autopsies, working in forensics.

For something a little more light hearted, consider going into ecology, or the study of how organisms interact with their environment. These biologists study animal behaviors, such as migration patterns and the risk of endangerment and extinction. They also study how humans impact the environment through global warming and pollution.

An ecologist studies a population of orca whales in Antarctica
ecologist

Earth Science

Earth science studies geology, oceanography, meteorology and other areas. These scientists concern themselves with anything to do with the earth, including seismic activity, which causes earthquakes and tsunamis. By studying these phenomena scientists can implement early warning systems to save lives.

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